These authentic Hawaiian desserts will have you feeling the island vibes in no time at all. Perfect for your next Hawaiian-style BBQ or luau!
Why I Love Hawaiian Desserts
Random fact about me (Erica): I learned everything I know about Hawaiian baked goods by working at a bakery in Hawaii. Despite waking up at 3am, it was one of the funnest jobs I have ever had. It felt less like work and more like a party every day. We would crank up the music and dance while making bread and desserts like nobody’s business. My love for Hawaiian culture and food grew so much by working at the bakery. We were encouraged to try every item that we made, which introduced me to new flavors and foods that I otherwise normally wouldn’t have tried. It was the first time in my life I really ventured out of my culinary comfort zone and tried new things… and I found out I really liked trying new things.
What Dessert Is Hawaii Known For?
In Hawaii, the dessert possibilities are endless. There are so many different kinds of desserts and flavors, it would be impossible to narrow it down to one or two desserts that Hawaii is known for. Instead, when thinking of Hawaiian treats, consider some of the ingredients that are widely known and loved in Hawaii and you can make a dessert choice based on that. Popular Hawaiian dessert ingredients include (but are not limited to):
- Coconut (or Haupia)
- Lilikoi (aka Passionfruit)
- “POG” (Passionfruit-Orange-Guava)
- Macadamia nuts
- Taro (or Poi)
Our Top 5 Favorite Authentic Hawaiian Desserts
Narrowing this list down was NOT easy and I know there are a lot of desserts out there that could have easily made this list. That being said, here are our top 5 favorites (click each picture for the recipe) in no particular order:
Haupia (or Hawaiian Coconut pudding) is less of a “pudding” as we know it and more of a cool, smooth, coconutty treat you can pick up with your hands. It can be eaten on its own or it can be an ingredient used to enhance other Hawaiian dessert recipes. It isn’t like any dessert we have here on the mainland and it can be a bit of an acquired taste for some, but I absolutely love it and it always takes me straight back to Hawaii.
Chocolate Haupia Pie
Chocolate Haupia Pie is a MUST when visiting North Shore Oahu. If you can’t make it to Ted’s Bakery anytime soon, the next best thing you can do is make it at home. This recipe tastes JUST like the local favorite!
Probably the most requested cake at our bakery was guava cake and for good reason. I love the bright flavor of this cake combined with the creamy smooth layers. It is easy to make in big batches for large gatherings. You can’t go wrong bringing this to your next Hawaiian-themed party!
Malasadas are a fan-favorite in Hawaii (though originally a Portuguese treat, it has been around Hawaii long enough that I am tagging it as “Hawaiian”). From Leonard’s bakery in Honolulu to random bakeries and food trucks around the islands, there are always people lining up to get a hot malasada. They taste like a cloud dipped in sugar and even better when filled with haupia.
When I lived in Hawaii I didn’t have a car so I didn’t make it to Waikiki often, but when I did I always made a point to go to Duke’s to get the Hula Pie. Hula Pie is like a giant ice cream pie with a chocolate shell and coconut whipped cream.
Even though Pani Popo is more of a side dish than a dessert (and more Samoan than Hawaiian), I feel like it needs to be on this list. It was one of my favorite things we would make at the bakery. Pani popo is a dinner-style roll that is covered in sweet coconut milk and served warm. Trust me, it’s as good as it sounds.
More Hawaiian dessert ideas:
Even though these recipes aren’t considered “authentic” they can still pass as a delicious island-inspired dessert for any Hawaiian BBQ or luau:
- Pina Colada Cake
- Coconut Cream Cake with Coconut Frosting
- Coconut Cream Pie
- Island Pecan Pie
- Hawaiian Wedding Cake
More Authentic Hawaiian Desserts
Though we don’t have recipes for each of these (yet), they are worth mentioning in case you plan a trip to Hawaii and wanted to try something new:
- Butter Mochi – A simply, buttery, cake that is slightly chewy. Like mochi but in cake form!
- Chantilly Cake – Like German chocolate cake but (ironically) without coconut
- Dobash Cake – A Hawaiian style chocolate cake with a thick, pudding-like frosting
- Kulolo – A dessert made from taro that has a fudge-like consistency
- Chi Chi Dango – A type of mochi that is soft, sweet and often made for “Girl’s Day” in Hawaii
- Guri Guri – A frozen, fruity dessert that tastes like a cross between sherbet and ice cream.
I hope you have enjoyed these Hawaiian dessert ideas and that you will try some of them at your next gathering. Although I loved being near the beach and soaking up the Hawaiian sun, my favorite part about Hawaii by far was getting together with friends and just enjoying the good company (especially when food was involved). If you are looking for more tasty Hawaiian recipes to make and share, be sure to check out our Hawaiian Plate Lunch for entire meal ideas or if you are its looking for a quick snack, try our Spam Musubi recipe. You really can’t go wrong with any of our Hawaiian recipes 🙂 Feel free to try them all!